By Theresa Maria Wilson
A longtime employee with the Lucia Mar Unified School District will take over duties as superintendent. The appointment of Andy Stenson was announced during a Board of Trustees meeting on Sept. 18.
“I am very honored that our school board has the faith and the trust in my abilities to put me in this position,” Stenson said.
Stenson takes over the position held by Dr. Raynee Daley who announced her resignation on Sept. 10. She will be on medical leave until her retirement date in January of 2019.
“She has been one of the best superintendents that we have ever had,” said Stenson. “While there is a level of excitement with my appointment to this position, it is certainly mixed with a fair amount of sorrow.”
In a message sent to all LMUSD employees, Daley said, “I have missed being a part of things, but treasure the relationships developed over the past seven years and the effective work that we have done together. I am deeply proud of the efforts our teachers, classified staff, management team and Board of Education have made to build a transparent, responsive organization that truly puts our kids first.
“Today, that pride and joy is tinged with sadness as I share that I have submitted my resignation for the purpose of retirement. I will be on medical leave until the date of retirement, which will be no later than January 1, 2019. My current health situation demands my full attention, and I look forward to regaining my health and embracing this next chapter of my life. “
Stenson has served Lucia Mar in multiple capacities for more than twenty years. He worked as a physical education instructional assistant at Harloe Elementary, as a teacher at North Oceano (now Fairgrove) Elementary, assistant principal at Judkins Middle School, principal of Fairgrove Elementary and Mesa middle schools, assistant superintendent of curriculum, and most recently, assistant superintendent of business.
In his new role, Stenson said the first order of business is to maintain the course the district is already on.
“Raynee and the board of education put Lucia Mar on the right track,” he said. “Even though I am coming in as the new superintendent, there will be no left hand turns nor right hand turns. We are on the right path.”
Areas of emphasis for the current school year already in place will continue. Those include school safety measures and practices, completion of construction projects and using state funding to increase the number of devices, Chrome Books, for students to access.
“We have a lot of focus on getting new devices into student’s hands and training our staff and our students on how to use them in an educational setting,” Stenson said.
In the future, Stenson said the district would have to address declining enrollment.
“We are down 197 kids compared to a year ago at this time,” he said. “That’s a lot. We have never seen a number like that. It’s anybody’s guess why we are down that many. It doesn’t take a PHD to understand that we have very, very high housing prices in our area and the rental market is very rough also; I think families are being priced out of the community.”
To increase enrollment the district is working to “beef up” its independent study program.
“We have seen over time that more and more kids appear to benefit from a flexible learning environment versus the traditional five days a week for six and half hours a day going to the brick and mortar school,” Stenson said. “We have made some efforts to improve out independent study program. That is something that we will put emphasis on.”
Schools still receive state funding for students enrolled in independent study programs. There are options for students at almost every grade level to participate. Generally, students attend school once a week and check in with their instructor on a scheduled basis whether daily or weekly.
With 10,300 students in the district, the recent decline isn’t catastrophic percentage wise, but is something Stenson says needs to be on their radar. For now, school closures are not on the table.
“If this trend continues, and we continue to lose 100 to 200 kids a year for the next two to three years, we will definitely need to tighten our belt. There is no doubt about it.”
Stenson is a product of the Lucia Mar public schools as are his two children, Ben and Grace. Andy and his wife, Chrissy, have lived in Arroyo Grande for the past 18 years. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Winona State University in Minnesota, and his master’s degree through Chapman University.
“Andy Stenson knows our school district inside and out and is a proven leader. His roots are in our community,” said Board of Directors Vice-President Vern Dahl in a press release.
Stenson’s superintendent agreement will be brought to the October 2 regular trustee meeting for board action. Stenson’s employment as superintendent would begin on the effective date of the Daley’s resignation, in the event that date is moved forward from January 1.